Love in the Time of Cholera (2007)
Love in the Time of Cholera (2007)

Genre: Romantic Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 19 min.

Release Date: November 16th, 2007 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Mike Newell Actors: Javier Bardem, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Benjamin Bratt, Marcela Mar, Liev Schreiber, John Leguizamo, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Eugenia Arboleda, Hector Elizondo

 


 

D

espite all of its deviations from the mid-‘80s novel by Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “Love in the Time of Cholera” is still unable to completely break away from the basic categorization of a brooding tale of forbidden love. A momentous performance by Javier Bardem and nearly flawless makeup effects (the two combined generate all the right idiosyncrasies for aging through one’s 70s) help to create a heartfelt story that occasionally touches upon realism more than its predecessors, but projects like “The Notebook” (along with several other contemporary works), with its focus on unending love, overtook it on the road to big screen adaptation. And before that there were the major epics that dealt with similar themes, including “Doctor Zhivago,” “Wuthering Heights,” and even “Romeo and Juliet.”

Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) falls hopelessly in love with Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), who is head-over-heels in kind. But Fermina’s father (John Leguizamo) has bigger plans for his daughter, whom he hopes will marry into money – and whisks her away to prevent the two from being together. Love knows no limits, however, leading Florentino to vow to stay faithful to his one true love. During their years of separation, Fermina marries Dr. Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt), a respectable doctor and expert in the symptoms of cholera, allowing her to all but forget about Florentino – who continually attempts to stay near her. Eventually, Ariza discovers that sex alleviates some of the pain of heartbreak, which prompts him to lust after young women wherever he goes. But as the years pass, he realizes that despite their increasing age and their extended separation, he will never give up or forget his passion for Fermina.

It is in 1879 Cartagena, Colombia when the story proper starts. But the film actually opens at the end, then moves back to the beginning to play through to the end again. Countless films have followed that exact same timeline-editing formula, with a moderate artistic flair. Here, however, it doesn’t seem to make any difference. In fact, it works against the picture, because the first impression of Florentino is as an old man, sleeping with a significantly younger college girl. How exactly are viewers supposed to interpret such an unconventional – or rather specifically connoted – act? The answer might be more apparent later on, suggesting that Florentino and Fermina must transcend not only the difficulties of love, but also the idea that it is reserved for the young. Still, audiences are likely to negatively judge Florentino on this striking first impression, which is largely antithetical to typical protagonist conduct.

The story to “Love in the Time of Cholera” is well flourished with bold characters and period piece designs, but these components aren’t strong enough to mask the fact that everything witnessed here has been done before. Numerous films have previously approached the taboo or class-disparity romance plot, each from slightly different angles, to varying degrees of success. The elements that set this film apart make for adequate entertainment – especially the idea that suffering over unrequited love is a somewhat noble act – but it is ultimately not enough to prevent the result from being routine and repetitive.

But the most singular aspect of the film is its extreme sexual comedy. In one off-the-wall situation after another, Florentino finds himself obsessed with sex, going so far as to keep track of all the women he sleeps with (midway through, Florentino has already amassed a list of well over 300 lovers). Most encounters are presented in a wickedly humorous fashion, with plenty of playful nudity for that modern edginess that separates contemporary love stories from the madcap sex farces of yore. And leave it to director Mike Newell (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Pushing Tin,” “Enchanted April”) to squeeze in a sex scene with the extremely elderly couple, creating a laughably awkward moment. A perfect concept for cinema, love is clearly a crazy, irrational, unpredictable, and occasionally harmful thing, as “Love in the Time of Cholera” vibrantly paints with wit and vivacity – even if it doesn’t tread new ground.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10